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Sep 15, 2006

Levine Report

OK, teacher education is bad again, and it’s going to hit the news on Monday, just watch. A report on teacher education by Arthur Levine was widely leaked, and will be actually released on September 18 (See preview as well as NCATE advanced response). I encourage anyone to read the report on on Monday, and to form your own opinion. Here is mine: it sucks. People who do bad research should not claim any authority in issuing recommendations based on it. This stuff would not have been published be it a peer-reviewed publication, because of the obvious research flaws.

The author uses surveys of school principals to make a judgment that teacher education programs do not prepare teachers well enough. At the same time, he claims that quality of teacher preparation should be evaluated by looking at academic progress made by students of our graduates. So, which one is it, subjective opinions of principals or student performance data? He uses the U.S. News and World Report ranking to show that NCTAE accreditation does not improve quality of teacher education (top and bottom of the ranking list have some accredited institutions). Well, the ranking system is hardly scientific; it is based largely on reputations. Levine uses four exemplary teacher education schools, but again, offers no evidence that their graduates actually teach better; he only cites their reputation. This is just bad research, and rather poor logic.

Even if we have hard data on how well students of our graduates perform (which we don’t in Colorado), what is the base line for comparisons? How do you make a judgment that the entire field of teacher education is inadequate? Is it some international comparison? Is it a comparison to other professions like lawyers and doctors? Neither comparison makes any sense. Since teacher quality is only a part of any nation’s academic success, we cannot use K-12 educational achievement in international context as a criterion. Incidentally, American schools are not at all as bad as people might believe, but even if they were, it would be a huge leap to say that this is because of teacher quality.

Ironically, the author of the report says that we need a lot more research, because we don’t know answers to some basic questions like what works in teacher education. Yet he gives out recommendations on that very topic anyway! Just wait till you see those recommendations – they range from trivial to ridiculous. The man wants to close down teacher education programs in institutions like ours and enlarge those at R-1 schools. So, lets put our 1500 students in Stanford Teacher Ed program (that currently has 69 students) and hope they all turn out as outstanding as the original 69. I guess Stanford will be hiring soon!

I am not saying we don’t have any problems. We do, like anyone else. I am just tired of people putting a lot of garbage in what looks like research, and then hit the media circuits. I am angry not because we are criticized, but because we are criticized in such an unfair and incompetent manner. The implications of the critique are that we just don’t have the will to improve, and simply need to try harder or be smarter. This is Friday, I am tired and irritated, and believe we should not take it any longer. This is definitely not what we need to improve.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Sasha, this report was the topic of conversation on another blog I read....started out to be "The Wall" but now is something about ED the small university where I currently teach we actually had a meeting in response to this report for a concerned legislator who actually cares about education and wants information to share with other legislators...we read the thing skeptically, as you did, noted the flawed research, genuflected to the recommendations, and then tried to defend of the absurd.. Part of our group had been to the NCATE conference as well...yes, accountability is necessary; yes, there are too many standards; yes, we will have too many committees and the resulting meetings for about two years in concern is that higher educ faculty and administrators spend so much time and energy in site management that the classroom, teaching, and students become not less important but, of necessity, become less of a priority.